It goes without saying that 2020 did not turn out as we had envisaged. The Covid pandemic hit us in March and the mediation world, as others, scrambled to respond to a ‘work at home’ directive. Relationships Scotland had signed up to the Scottish Mediation Charter and planned to partner with Scottish Mediation to raise awareness of and promote the benefits of mediation throughout their Year of Mediation initiative. Reflecting on the year that was 2020 we can report significant developments in embracing online technology for the delivery of mediation and training of mediators – even if it wasn’t quite what we had planned!

The year started on a high in January with two professional development masterclass events for our family mediators, delivered in person by two speakers from the International Centre for Children and Family Law – Jon Graham from Australia and Lorri Yasenik from Canada ( ICCFL Training). The first of these on Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment and Risk Responses was designed specifically for mediators working in the context of separation and divorce and further enhanced our understanding of risk screening and safety planning. The second event on ‘Meeting with Children’ offered additional tools and approaches for the work of our child consultant mediators to hear from children about their experience of their parents splitting up. Hearing the voice of the child and ensuring this is shared with parents in their decision making about future arrangements is a key policy objective within the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 and an area of our work that we hope to develop further.

In late March and throughout April our focus rapidly changed to equipping our practitioners to be able to deliver services online. We developed guidelines and service delivery procedures for offering mediation, primarily using the Zoom platform. We learnt from the experiences of other jurisdictions, and sectors, and a few of our Member Services who have been offering remote mediate in disparate rural communities for some time. We are delighted that our family mediation service can now be provided across Scotland by video conference. Our learning has equipped us to be able to continue to offer this option for parents going forward, even after the return to in person delivery is allowed and safe.

Our next challenge was to move our training delivery online, for our core practitioner training courses and our professional development events. Again the Zoom platform has served us well with the option for break out rooms. We have developed creative ways to engage learners and facilitate interactive learning, recognising the strain that too much screen time can cause, and responding to the challenges that Covid and the restrictions were bringing to people’s lives.

Forgiveness – the Art of Letting Go was a joint online professional development event with our colleagues at Scottish Mediation and Place for Hope in September (via Zoom). Eileen Barker (The Path of Forgiveness) facilitated our training from California and we reflected on how to choose to let go of hurts and grievances for the benefit of our own health and well-being. There were significant insights from working with mediators from other sectors and plans for future collaborations.

The highlight of our training year was an inspiring online event led by Ken Cloke, mediator guru from the other side of the pond – The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey into Dispute Resolution (Ken Cloke). We could have listened to Ken for hours! It seems fitting to end this reflection on a quote from Ken: Every conflict teaches us what we most need to learn. Use mediation to better understand, transform and transcend dysfunctionality.’

2020 may not have gone to plan but we were still able to make it a significant year for mediation at Relationships Scotland!

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